01 June 2012

THE tourism slogan 'It's more fun in The Philippines!' was appropriate for the 75th anniversary celebrations of The Salvation Army in the country, led by the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries).

The celebrations commenced with a youth congress – set in lush, tropical surroundings about two hours from the capital city, Manila – attended by nearly 500 young people. The delegates responded wholeheartedly to the messages of the international visitors that 'now' is the time to engage in the fight for Jesus Christ. The mercy seat was lined time and time again, including 57 people who committed themselves to Salvation Army officership.

A similar energy marked the officers councils, which included enthusiastic singing, the presentation of long-service awards and stirring testimonies. There was a sensitivity to the Spirit of God and a willing response to the call for recommitment.

The Salvation Army invaded Manila's Luneta Park on a hot Saturday afternoon for a Pinoy Praise Party [Pinoy is a local word for Filipino]. Before the praise party began, medical mission teams had moved through the park, dispensing medication and free professional health advice. The gathering was richly Filipino flavoured – full of colour, joy and booming music. The Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Sue Swanson easily engaged the large crowd.

The Sunday morning meeting in the Cuneta Astrodome included the memorable enrolment of 150 senior soldiers. The new soldiers come from a variety of the numerous and often isolated islands around the territory. Other highlights were a cultural welcome dance by residents of Bethany Children's Home; 75 officers using six Filipino languages to present the Scripture; and a dance item, 'Heartbeat of our Mission' – movingly presented by young delegates from Davao Corps – which preceded the Chief of the Staff's Bible message.

The Chief spoke of the place of grace in sanctification as well as salvation. 'Have more faith in God's grace!' he told the congregation. During a sacred time of prayer, hundreds of people flocked to the mercy seat.

A young Salvationist doing a backflip on stage set a high level of excitement for the Sunday afternoon celebration meeting. The smoke and glitter machines worked overtime as brilliant dancing and heartfelt worship brought the place alive.

Many recommitments to God and the work of The Salvation Army were made following Commissioner Sue Swanson's powerful Bible message. Territorial leaders Colonels Lalzamlova and Nui Nemkhanching were surrounded by Salvationists as the basketball stadium became a sacred place, with people committing to be the 'tabernacle' in their community.

As the celebrations concluded, there was a sense of confidence in the future of The Salvation Army's mission in the Philippines. The anniversary slogan said it all – 'From Strength to Strength We Grow!'

Report by Lieut-Colonel Robyn Clinch
Territorial Secretary for Women's Ministries
Editor/Literary Secretary